Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
indi Ortega likes staying busy with a slew of discs coming out - three high quality releases in three years plus a holiday EP. Not bad for an indie artist. Not to mention a heavy-duty touring schedule that has her playing both in her native Canada and the U.S. on a regular basis.
So, the lively singer, who has lived in Nashville for two years, could be forgiven if it seemed that her voice was a bit worn and under the weather.
Only that would not have been true on this night in an intimate setting - even if the friendly Ortega said after the show that she had to be careful about her voice.
That also would be understandable given the quality of her vocals. Ortega is a singer with a good-sized voice. She puts the material out there - and a good chunk of it came from her very worthy, just released "Tin Star" CD - with a dose of hiccup, catches and swirls in her delivery. Among the standouts were Hard As This, about the life of a musician (it isn't easy), while also changing gears for a harder edged New Orleans-referenced Voodoo Mama. Ortega also turned in a spare, but on target version of The Eagles' Desperado and a very reworked Ring of Fire.
Which all means that Ortega is part of the seemingly increasingly diminishing pool of traditional country artists out there. There was no rap or hip-hop in Ortega's repertoire. Just some fine singing, a good time keeper in drummer Tristen Henderson and a bunch of twangy, sharp, sometimes slide guitar picking from Champagne James Robertson.
While perhaps trying a tad too hard at times to proclaim that she is an independent artist (she did have one EP in 2008 on Interscope, but that was a lifetime ago), Ortega cuts an interesting figure. She could almost be viewed as a far tamer country Lady Gaga with big red lips, a throwback birdcage veil, red cowboy boots and a short black dress with a red flower embroidered into it. Dolly Parton may be more like it, although she doesn't share Parton's vocal qualities.
Maybe there's something to Ortega's independence. She's putting out the music she wants and not beholder to the bean counters. Yes, the life of an artist isn't easy, but Ortega sure makes it sound good.